In the jazz world, Lewis Porter is known as a professor, author and consultant who also plays piano. Italian Encounter should invert that order. Lewis Porter must now be known as a helluva piano player who happens to have several day gigs.
Porter (who is eminently qualified to write his own liner notes) describes the first four tracks as “somewhat daring and experimental” and the last three tracks as “more traditional.” But whereas two of the first four tracks are totally improvised (“A Summer Night” and “Wine Hot/Three as One”), and while the last three tracks include a 12-minute respectful version of “Body and Soul,” there is no obvious dichotomy.
Porter always plays with a hard, glancing touch and subtly disconcerting note choices and idiosyncratic lyricism. His mild dissonance puts an edge on the long rhapsodic single-note runs into which his ideas so often flow. “A Summer Night” has the poised anticipation of randomness coalescing into form. “Cherokee Variation” (one of the four “experimental” tracks) is even more clearly structured, a “variation” because it never states the theme. “Body and Soul” is a rapt, patient encounter, the melodic narrative acknowledged but time taken for subplots and glittering corollaries.